From winners Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood to runner-ups like Chris Daughtry and Jennifer Hudson, these are some of the most successful singers in 'Idol' history.
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Idolize These 'Idols'
From Kelly Clarkson to Jennifer Hudson, we're looking back at the winners and runner-ups who've made major impacts on the music scene (or at least in fans hearts) since they first competed in American Idol.
Not only did this Texas native steal the season one crown, she's also been stealing our hearts for 15 years and counting. Clarkson is nothing if not über relatable, and it shows in both her reputation and album sales. Since winning American Idol in 2002, Clarkson has become a three-time GRAMMY winner with seven studio albums under her belt. Her latest, Piece by Piece, was released in 2015 and scored her two new GRAMMY nominations, plus her recent rendition of the song on Idol brought the judges, contestants and nearly everyone in America to tears. Clarkson herself even called it a "perfect ending" to a "beautiful beginning." The Texas native is a proud mama to River Rose, her daughter with husband Brandon Blackstock, and is expecting a son in spring 2016.
The season four winner has become American Idol's most successful alum to date. Underwood is arguably one of country music's biggest stars and the only artist to score six consecutive No. 1 albums on the Billboard's Top Country Albums chart. Not only is she a seven-time GRAMMY winner and an 11-time ACM Award winner, she's also a proud mom to son Isaiah Michael, her only child with husband Mike Fisher.
The Chicago native is one of the most successful Idol runners-up, despite having come in seventh in season three. Hudson made her film debut in 2006's Dreamgirls, for which she won an Academy Award, Golden Globe, BAFTA and Screen Actors Guild Award. In addition to movie roles, which have also included appearances in Sex and the City and The Secret Life of Bees, she won a GRAMMY for her 2008 debut album, Jennifer Hudson. She has since released two more albums and made her Broadway debut in The Color Purple. In 2009, she welcomed her only child, son David Daniel Otunga, Jr., with her longtime fiancé, David Otunga.
After finishing second to season five winner Taylor Hicks, McPhee made a splash in the acting world. She made her big screen debut in 2008's The House Bunny and went on to starring roles in NBC's Smash and, currently, CBS' Scorpion. Her last album, 2015's Hysteria, included collaborations with hitmakers Ryan Tedder and Sia.
Many viewed his second place finish behind Kris Allen as the biggest upset in Idol history, but that hasn't stopped Lambert from major success. He went on to become a multi-platinum, GRAMMY-nominated artist with three studio albums under his belt as well as a high-profile guest role on Glee. He's also spent the last few years touring with Queen. In January 2016, Forbes named Lambert the top earning Idol of 2015 with a career-high $10 million in earnings.
Season five was clearly one of the show's strongest, and Daughtry channeled his 15 minutes into a No. 1 debut on the Billboard 200 chart and a handful of hit singles with his band. Since graduating from Idol, Daughtry has released four studio albums with his band, scored four GRAMMY nominations and won five American Music Awards.
Phillips' career was given a boost when his American Idol coronation song, "Home," was selected as the theme for NBC's Olympics coverage, among other TV projects. Even Idol picked up one of Phillips' tracks, with "Gone, Gone, Gone" serving as the season 12 send-off song. Despite releasing two studio albums after his season 11 win, the singer-songwriter filed a bombshell lawsuit against 19 Recordings in early 2015. In court docs obtained by ET, Phillips called his contract with 19 "oppressive." In happier news, Phillips wed his longtime girlfriend, Hannah Blackwell, in October 2015.
The season five contender finished in sixth place but went on to reality TV show victory for a different competition, winning the coveted Dancing With the Stars mirror ball trophy in 2013. Pickler has released four studio albums, including the critically acclaimed 100 Proof, a home goods line and dedicated countless hours to supporting the U.S. military on USO tours over the years. She has also returned to the small screen now, starring in the Ryan Seacrest-produced CMT docu-comedy I Love Kellie Pickler, and she's been tapped to co-host an upcoming daytime lifestyle talk show produced by Faith Hill.
When she won season six in 2007, Sparks was then the youngest to walk away an Idol champ. She has gone on to become one of the most successful winners from the franchise, knocking out three studio albums and landing the leading role in Whitney Houston's final film, Sparkle. She also scored a GRAMMY nomination with her 2009 collaboration with Chris Brown, "No Air," though she did not win the award. In 2016, she nabbed a leading role in the Kevin Williamson time-traveling TV pilot, Time After Time.
Now known simply by her first name, Fantasia has stayed busy since taking the season three crown in 2004. She has released four studio albums, published a memoir, starred in a Lifetime movie about herself and appeared on Broadway. The GRAMMY-winner is expected to release a new solo album in 2016. Fantasia married Kendall Taylor in 2015, and has two children from previous relationships, daughter Zion Quari and son Dallas Xavier.
Aiken has had one of the more diverse post-Idol careers. After coming in second on season two, the runner-up made a multi-platinum debut with 2003's Measure of a Man, which he followed up with six more studio albums. He has also gone on to become a New York Times best-selling author, executive produced his own Christmas special, created the National Inclusion Project and made his Broadway debut in Monty Python's Spamalot in 2008. His most interesting career move, however, was a shift into politics. Aiken ran for Congress in North Carolina's 2nd congressional district but lost to the Republican incumbent.
At 17 years old, McCreery became the series' youngest male winner (Sparks was the same age when she won). Since then, he has become a certifiable star in the country music world, selling more than 2.5 million albums and scoring three Platinum-certified singles, all while attending college at North Carolina State University. His third studio album, which features the single "Southern Belle," is expected to drop in early 2016.
In one of the most surprising upsets in Idol history, Allen topped Adam Lambert for the season eight title. His debut single, "Live Like We're Dying," became a hit in 2009, but he made major headlines for a devastating car crash in 2013 that rendered him almost unable to play music. Thankfully, Allen recovered and released his third studio album, Horizons, in 2014. Now, Allen is expecting his second child with his high school sweetheart-turned-wife, Katy O'Connell, in June 2016.
Cook didn't originally intend on trying out for Idol, but it was clearly a good idea, as he won season seven in 2008. After releasing two albums with RCA Records, he split from the label in 2012 and relocated to Nashville, Tennessee. (Fun fact: Cook co-wrote country singer David Nail's hit single, "Kiss You Tonight.") Cook released Digital Vein, his first independent release since pre-Idol, in 2015.
Though he hasn't made a ton of news as of late, Archuleta became a teen hearthrob directly after his season seven Idol run. "Crush," the first single off his self-titled debut, became a hit after it was released in 2008. The album would go on to debut at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart. In 2012, Archuleta started on a two-year hiatus to become a missionary with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Chile, though his sixth album was released in 2013.